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I Will Buy All Your Markelle Fultz Stock

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I don’t generally understand economics. The last time I tried to read about Bitcoin I’m pretty sure I had a small seizure. I assume the only reason people buy ‘The Economist’ is so people can see them pretending to read ‘The Economist.’ I’m even too lenient with my rent collecting to be any good at Monopoly. The one tenet of investing that I do understand, because of its idiot-proof simplicity, is ‘Buy low, sell high.’ And if this article from Sports Illustrated, this article from The Ringer, this article from Bleacher Report, this Bill Simmons podcast, and this ‘Fultz Bust’ twitter search are to be believed, then Fultz’s stock is pretty low right now, at least compared to some previous highs. So for anyone selling, let it be known that I am buying. I don’t just want some of it. I want it all. If it were up to me I’d corner the market on Fultz Stock Trading Places-style in order to finance the construction of a number twenty shaped compound atop Mount Markelle on Fultz-Island. Why am I so bullish on Fultz? Let me break it down for you…

Put simply, Markelle Fultz is still the best Point Guard prospect since Kyrie Irving. Fultz has a natural ability to change speeds, which doesn’t just make him dangerous in transition, it helps him control the pace of the game. He’s a playmaker with instinctual passing vision. He’s got a hard to beat first step, an impossible to guard spin-move, and can use hesitation to get where he wants, or to get the hesi pull-up jimbo he wants. Traditionally he’s been a good spot-up shooter, good off the dribble, and a good finisher at the rim thanks to his athleticism and body control. If he improves his free-throw shooting, his ability to get to the basket should translate into an ability to get to the line. Oh and he’s got a 6’10” wingspan. Which means he has the potential to be both an above average rebounder at his position and a versatile defender who can switch across two to three positions.

If all that sounds like a bunch of subjective, eye-test, opinion-based, Philly-biased, aggrandizing fluffery to you, let’s dig back into some of his college numbers and highlights, since he’s only got four injury-plagued games to draw from in the pros. Things like playmaking, passing vision, creativity, footwork and handle generally show up a little more readily in the footage than they do the analytics. So let’s start there. Fultz has a lot of ways to get his own shot and a lot of ways to get to the rim and a lot of ways to finish when he’s there. In other words, he’s got a lot of ways to score. Here are a few examples…

I also mentioned his passing vision, which is an easy thing to claim and an easy thing to pretend to back-up with analytics. The best way to prove the point is to watch him break down a D and do something like this…

Or this…

What about the generally hard to quantify creativity I mentioned? Well, all you need to get a sense of that is this play. Watch as he shakes two defenders with the same crossover, splits the D, kicks to the perimeter to draw the pick-up defender off him only to call for the ball and drain a three he knew would be open.

All those fun to watch examples aside, I’m not a person who is usually convinced by cherry-picked highlights. So let’s dig into the numbers. Right now the Sixers are top ten in threes attempted (29.9/gm) and just outside the bottom ten in three point percentage (35.5%). Their team three point percentage has dropped by almost 3% a month every month this year. At the same time their third in the league in assists/gm (26.2) and second in assist percentage (65.2%) behind only Golden State. Fultz doesn’t just fit the Sixers, he’s exactly what we need. In his one and only year playing for the Washington Huskies, Fultz shot 41.3% from three on five attempts a game. 55.8% of his threes were off the catch and 53% of his assists went to three point shooters. For a team that not only moves the ball a lot, but takes a lot of threes off the catch, Fultz is a pretty obvious fit. Speaking of off-the-ball shooting, in college 21% of Fultz’s possessions were Spot Ups or Off Screens and he scored 1.133 points per catch and shoot jump shot in the half court (per stats.nba.com), which isn’t just more much needed shooting, it’s more of the kind of shooting that will fit perfectly alongside a ball-dominant player like Simmons. He also good off the dribble, scoring 102 points per 100 possessions on pull-up jumpers. And even better in the pick and roll where that number jumps up to 118 points per 100 possessions which, just so we’re clear, is very, very, very good. That’s three very’s which might seem like a lot of very’s, but very much isn’t.

A guard who can shoot off the catch, create his own shot off the dribble, and tear it up on the pick and roll is a great thing for any NBA team. For the Sixers, it’s exactly what we’re missing. Just picturing the Fultz/Embiid pick and roll makes me want to buy their respective shirsey’s, cut them in half and sew them back together to create a single Embultz super shirsey to be unveiled to a drunken Wells Fargo crowd after successful crunch time PnR’s. Hell, I get excited just imagining us with another scorer on the floor during crunch time. A guy who can get a bucket from all three levels doesn’t just change our offense. It changes how other teams are forced to defend us.

Also, and bare with me here, but is there a more Philly story than the first pick in the draft trying to play through a mysterious injury, possibly getting shook, mysteriously changing his shot, becoming a punchline and a meme, becoming fodder for sports talk what ifs and podcast redrafts, becoming the guy who should have gone second or third or outside the top ten, becoming the subject of an endless stream of hypotheticals only to come back and become not just what we expected, but better than we expected? Is there anything more Philly than countless talking heads deciding our first pick was a miss only to have him drop a go ahead hesi pull-up jimbo right over Jayson Tatum in the waning seconds of a close playoff game?

I would argue there is not. Which is why, if you’ve got Fultz stock you’re willing to sell, I’ll take it.